Pearson Awarded Vendor Status For Delaware Social Studies State Assessment

Pearson has officially entered the world of Delaware standardized tests.  On November 10th, NCS Pearson officially signed a contract with the Delaware Department of Education for a five-year contract worth $6 million to create and deliver the Social Studies state assessment.  This contract will expire on December 31st, 2021.  You won’t find any official news release from the Delaware DOE on this.  I imagine many history teachers across the state will not be too happy to see this news.  The Delaware DOE has used Pearson in the past as a vendor, but never for an official state assessment.  With American Institutes for Research as the Smarter Balanced Assessment vendor for English Language Arts and Math, along with WestEd as the recent awarded vendor for Science, Pearson joins the Delaware state assessment crew.

The Social Studies state assessment will be given to students in 4th, 7th, and presumably 10th grade.  This would follow the former Social Studies DCAS testing delivery method.  Upon reading the contract, it looks like the field tests would begin next year with full implementation in those grades by the 2018-2019 school year.

I was not able to determine whether this test will be a once a year test or a “stealth test” based on the below contract.  Delaware Secretary of Education Godowsky did mention the possibility of this assessment being a “stealth test”.  Those kind of tests are delivered throughout the year in competency-based education environments.  Until a student is considered to “master” the content, they do not move on until they do.

There has been recent talk in Delaware concerning the future of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Sources have indicated newly elected Governor John Carney may want to move away from the Smarter Balanced standardized test and may want to engage NWEA for the assessment provider for ELA and Math.  But no matter who the vendor is or what kind of test it is, it would still be based on the Common Core State Standards.  The Every Student Succeeds Act gives states the flexibility to choose their own standards for education, but the Delaware DOE already decided (without any input from stakeholders whatsoever) that Common Core is the way to go.

Pearson beat out American Institutes for Research, Measured Progress Inc., and Strategic Measurement and Evaluation, Inc. to win this contract.

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The Bidders For The Delaware Social Studies And Science State Assessments

The Delaware Dept. of Education put out a request for proposal for their Social Studies and Science state assessments.  For Social Studies, the bidding ended on 9/9 and for Science, 9/23.  This is the second time the Delaware DOE put out requests for these two tests and some of the same companies bid again.  I went into detail about some of those companies last December.  The last time both the state assessments were included in one big lump.  This time, they separated them.  I had a lot to say about the Social Studies request for proposal last month and how this could lead to embedded stealth testing in a constant online competency-based personalized learning environment.

Delaware System of Student Assessment in Social Studies

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Next Generation Science Assessment for Delaware Learners

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The new bidders for these assessments are Measured Progress Inc. and WestEd.  Measured Progress is just more of the same according to Save Maine Schools.  They were the Smarter Balanced vendor in three states last year, but they couldn’t even handle the data capacity and had to shut down testing.  WestEd, though, is no stranger to Delaware.  This is a company that thinks online digital learning games with Curious George are just great for preschool.  They also have an extensive list of clients with some very familiar names.  Ironically, the Delaware DOE hired facilitators from WestEd for their Every Student Succeeds Act Community Conversations, along with Research In Action.  They even went into a partnership recently with NewSchools Venture Fund to expand small business data technology companies in K-12 classrooms.  How ironic that they received grant money from the Small Business Administration to fund ed tech start-ups while they are bidding for contracts that would measure the effectiveness of ed tech instruction with state assessments.  No conflict of interest there!  Strategic Measurement still has the same website as last year.  Both AIR and Pearson are still the lead players in the high-stakes testing arena.  None of these bidders signal Delaware ending the high-stakes testing arena any time soon.

The High-Stakes Testing Scam Revealed At Last

What if I told you the high-stakes testing American children have been going through is a complete and utter scam? Many would say they already knew that, but would they be able to tell you how they knew this? Probably not. At least not at the levels our state Department of Educations developed with the many testing companies such as American Institutes for Research, Pearson, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

The Delaware Department of Education put out a Request for Proposal for our new Social Studies State Assessment. The actual RFP is a treasure trove of testing information. For starters, the Delaware Department of Education is flat-out lying in their RFP. Last year, the Delaware DOE put out their “Delaware School Success Framework”. This is essentially Delaware’s report card for schools. Included in this horrible accountability testing machine are participation rate penalties for schools that go under 95% participation rate on the state assessments. The Delaware DOE and State Board of Education tried passing an updated version of Delaware’s regulation regarding school accountability, but many parents and education organizations balked and successfully blocked the State Board of Education from passing it. As a result, even though the Delaware State Board of Education eventually passed the Delaware School Success Framework, there is no regulatory power behind it. But that didn’t stop the Delaware DOE from making it look like it is perfectly legal in their RFP for the new Social Studies state assessment.

One of the first things the DOE calls for from a potential vendor for this test is understanding of and the ability to put the Rasch Scoring Methodology into the test. What is this Rasch the Delaware DOE has? It is an all-consuming itch to trip up kids and schools and parents. This is part of the underbelly of state testing that no one talks about. The website appropriately titled Rasch-Analysis.com explains the Rasch Scoring Methodology as this:

What is a Rasch Analysis? The Rasch model, where the total score summarizes completely a person’s standing on a variable, arises from a more fundamental requirement: that the comparison of two people is independent of which items may be used within the set of items assessing the same variable. Thus the Rasch model is taken as a criterion for the structure of the responses, rather than a mere statistical description of the responses. For example, the comparison of the performance of two students’ work marked by different graders should be independent of the graders.

In this case it is considered that the researcher is deliberately developing items that are valid for the purpose and that meet the Rasch requirements of invariance of comparisons.

Analyzing data according to the Rasch model, that is, conducting a Rasch analysis, gives a range of details for checking whether or not adding the scores is justified in the data. This is called the test of fit between the data and the model. If the invariance of responses across different groups of people does not hold, then taking the total score to characterize a person is not justified. Of course, data never fit the model perfectly, and it is important to consider the fit of data to the model with respect to the uses to be made of the total scores. If the data do fit the model adequately for the purpose, then the Rasch analysis also linearises the total score, which is bounded by 0 and the maximum score on the items, into measurements. The linearised value is the location of the person on the unidimensional continuum – the value is called a parameter in the model and there can be only one number in a unidimensional framework. This parameter can then be used in analysis of variance and regression more readily than the raw total score which has floor and ceiling effects.

Many assessments in these disciplines involve a well defined group of people responding to a set of items for assessment. Generally, the responses to the items are scored 0, 1 (for two ordered categories); or 0, 1, 2 (for three ordered categories); or 0, 1,2, 3 (for four ordered categories) and so on, to indicate increasing levels of a response on some variable such as health status or academic achievement. These responses are then added across items to give each person a total score. This total score summarise the responses to all the items, and a person with a higher total score than another one is deemed to show more of the variable assessed. Summing the scores of the items to give a single score for a person implies that the items are intended to measure a single variable, often referred to as a unidimensional variable.

The Rasch model is the only item response theory (IRT) model in which the total score across items characterizes a person totally. It is also the simplest of such models having the minimum of parameters for the person (just one), and just one parameter corresponding to each category of an item. This item parameter is generically referred to as a threshold. There is just one in the case of a dichotomous item, two in the case of three ordered categories, and so on.

Now this has a lot of lingo I didn’t quite get.  But the important part about understanding the Rasch Methodology of Scoring is that ALL items must be the same.  This is NOT what is going on currently.  With Smarter Balanced, PARCC and other state assessments, the testing companies have developed what is called a Partial Matrix of Items.  What this means is that a portion of the state assessment is the same for everyone.  But the remaining portion comes from a bucket of different test items submitted for these tests.  In partial matrix testing theory, the similar content shared by all could be anywhere from 20-30% of the items on the test.  The rest varies based on what is in the bucket.  What this means is this shocking find: students aren’t taking the exact same state assessment.  For Smarter Balanced test-takers, the tests aren’t the same.  The same for PARCC as well.

The truly frightening part about this is the probabilities with Partial Matrix.  If a student is a high achiever, the probability they will get a correct answer is above a probability of .5 on each item’s scale.  If they aren’t a high achiever and struggle, the probability drops below .5 on the scale.  So these tests are designed so roughly half get it right and half get them wrong.  But if kids aren’t taking the same exact test, where all the items after the “common” items change, that throws the whole model into whack.  The testing companies know this.  Our state DOEs know this.  The US DOE knows this.  Chances are many corporate education reform companies, politicians, and even some school Superintendents know this.  Any testing coordinator in a school district or charter school should know this.

This is also why opt out throws the whole scheme into disarray.  If too many “smart kids” opt out, it will change that whole .5 probability.  If too many struggling kids opt out, the test scores will be very high.  The testing companies love this model because it furthers the whole standardized testing environment which gives them lots of money.  With this model, schools fail and schools succeed.  It really is based on the socio-economic demographics of any given school.  This explains why the 95% participation rate is the desired outcome.  With a school of 1000 kids, 950 kids taking the test isn’t going to skew the results too much.  But once you get below that level, that .5 probability begins to shift in either direction.  None of these testing advocates care if the kids are proficient or not.  They already know, for the most part, exactly how it is going to turn out.  That’s when the real work and potential manipulation can occur.

In Delaware, students don’t take the Smarter Balanced Assessment at the same time.  There is a three month testing window.  Some schools begin in the first week of March whereas others may not start until May.  How do we know, with 100% certainty, companies like our testing vendor, American Institutes for Research aren’t looking at that data constantly?  How do we know they aren’t able to ascertain which questions have a higher or lower probability of being answered correctly once students start taking the test?  How do we know the testing gurus at our state DOEs aren’t in constant contact with the testing companies and are able to determine ahead of time which testing items in the “non-common” partial matrix to send to different schools, or even certain grades?

For example, say a state really wants to have a particular school show phenomenal “growth” in proficiency scores from one year to the next.  This could be a charter school.  While the overall proficiency rate isn’t phenomenal, the growth could be.  As a result, more students could be wowed by this school and might be more apt to send their children there.  It could flip around another way.  Say a state DOE really is  just sick of a particular district and wants more charters in that area.  The best way to make more charters is to show more failing traditional schools.  Even some charters could be expendable.  Another one might want to expand their enrollment and has more influence and pull than other ones.  With current accountability regulations (and more to come under ESSA), this allows states to continue labeling and shaming certain schools.  The reality is these assessments can be molded into any shape a state might want if they are able to interact with the testing vendor and determine which items go to which school.  This is a worst-case scenario for an already bad test to begin with.

While state DOEs brag about the computer-adaptability of these tests and how it will “work with the student”, this is the most egregious part of the whole modern-day standardized testing scheme.  By having this “adaptability”, it disguises the true intent: different items on the tests for different students.  Even if students talk about particular items on the test, the adaptability prevents them from having the same items on the test.  It is an ingenious scheme.

For teachers, some could be guided towards certain directions by the state DOEs for where to go with curriculum.  Others could be guided in the wrong direction which will ultimately change the results of these assessments.  It is the grandest illusion of them all.  The state DOEs will say “we have advisory committees.  Teachers pick the items for the test.”  I’m sure they do.  And I’m also sure there are plants on those committees.  Ones that wind up working with certain state foundations, state DOEs, or other corporate education reform companies.  It sounds so shady, doesn’t it?  How much of a soul has to be sold to make more money or climb up the corporate education ladder?

While all of this may have your head reeling, try this on for size: what happens when competency-based education becomes the next “thing”?  When digital personalized learning becomes the norm and all these state assessments become broken down into mini-standardized tests?  Instead of those 7-10 days when students are hogging up all the bandwidth in the school and teachers most likely lose a lot of hair, the tests will be shorter.  They will become end of unit assessments.  Teachers won’t even need to worry about administering their own end of unit assessment because Smarter Balanced and PARCC already did all the work!  How convenient.  Not only did our states reduce testing time, but also teacher’s time and effort.  A true cause for celebration.  And parents won’t even be able to opt their kids out of these tests because most of them most likely won’t even know their kid is testing and their classroom grades will be based off their digital personalized learning work and their competency-based education high-stakes mini-test.  We know Delaware is leaning towards this testing model because Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky mentioned this during our last Assessment Inventory Committee meeting back in May.

Meanwhile, back at the state DOE, they are getting all this data.  They are getting it from their vendors like American Institutes for Research, or Questar, or Pearson.  Other companies want to see it so they can work on a report about how to fix our schools.  Our state DOEs actually pay them to do these reports.  Through contracts and extensions of contracts.  Yes, only the student identifier code goes out.  These testing companies really don’t care about who the student is, just what they can extrapolate from the data.  But then that information comes back to the state.  The state knows who that student identifier belongs to.  For example, Student ID # belongs to John Johns at Delaware Elementary School.  Based on the information from all that data, they can easily paint a picture of that student.  Based on the scores, how long it took them to take the test, how they answered responsive questions… all of this allows them to track.  So much so they can determine, based on other algorithms and matrices, exactly what career path John Johns is heading towards.  Perhaps we should guide him towards that culinary program.  Or maybe Bio-technology pathways.  Or maybe poor John Johns won’t ever advance past a welder position.  FERPA guidelines allow state DOEs to actually do this.

Want to know who always loses in these testing games?  Students with disabilities.  They may receive accommodations but they never get the one accommodation they need the most.  For regular classroom tests, IEP teams frequently agree on a student not taking every single test question.  Maybe 1//2 or 3/4 of the questions.  Standardized tests don’t allow for that.  The answer is always the same: they will get more time.  What they fail to understand is what “more time” means to these students.  It means more time focusing on the same task: Taking a test.  What are their regular peers doing when these kids are getting “more time”?  They are learning.  Receiving instruction.  Getting ahead.  Students with disabilities are, yet again, put in a position where they will become further behind.

We all knew our kids were guinea pigs for these tests.  We just didn’t know how much.  The time to opt out of these tests, no matter what the circumstances might be, is now.  Not later, not tomorrow.  Now.  Today is your opt out day for your child.

Below is the RFP for Delaware’s Social Studies state assessment.  I’ve gone through this and highlighted key wording and troubling aspects which I will write more about tonight or tomorrow.  Don’t be fooled by the DOE’s statements of assurance in this.  I have no doubt their legal team went through it very carefully.  But I’m fairly certain they didn’t expect a citizen to go through it and dissect it like I did…

The PARCC Test: Exposed

This was originally written on another blog.  I will just call it Celia’s blog.  It was about the PARCC Test, released by the corporate education reform monster Pearson.  Pearson made Celia take off some of what she wrote.  Now ALL of us are reposting the original material in support of Celia and to give a collective whatever to Pearson.  Below is the original.

The PARCC Test: Exposed

The author of this blog posting is a public school teacher who will remain anonymous.

I will not reveal my district or my role due to the intense legal ramifications for exercising my Constitutional First Amendment rights in a public forum. I was compelled to sign a security form that stated I would not be “Revealing or discussing passages or test items with anyone, including students and school staff, through verbal exchange, email, social media, or any other form of communication” as this would be considered a “Security Breach.” In response to this demand, I can only ask—whom are we protecting?

There are layers of not-so-subtle issues that need to be aired as a result of national and state testing policies that are dominating children’s lives in America. As any well prepared educator knows, curriculum planning and teaching requires knowing how you will assess your students and planning backwards from that knowledge. If teachers are unable to examine and discuss the summative assessment for their students, how can they plan their instruction? Yet, that very question assumes that this test is something worth planning for. The fact is that schools that try to plan their curriculum exclusively to prepare students for this test are ignoring the body of educational research that tells us how children learn, and how to create developmentally appropriate activities to engage students in the act of learning. This article will attempt to provide evidence for these claims as a snapshot of what is happening as a result of current policies.

The PARCC test is developmentally inappropriate

In order to discuss the claim that the PARCC test is “developmentally inappropriate,” examine three of the most recent PARCC 4th grade items.

A book leveling system, designed by Fountas and Pinnell, was made “more rigorous” in order to match the Common Core State Standards. These newly updated benchmarks state that 4th Graders should be reading at a Level S by the end of the year in order to be considered reading “on grade level.” [Celia’s note: I do not endorse leveling books or readers, nor do I think it appropriate that all 9 year olds should be reading a Level S book to be thought of as making good progress.]

The PARCC, which is supposedly a test of the Common Core State Standards, appears to have taken liberties with regard to grade level texts. For example, on the Spring 2016 PARCC for 4th Graders, students were expected to read an excerpt from Shark Life: True Stories about Sharks and the Sea by Peter Benchley and Karen Wojtyla. According to Scholastic, this text is at an interest level for Grades 9-12, and at a 7th Grade reading level. The Lexile measure is 1020L, which is most often found in texts that are written for middle school, and according to Scholastic’s own conversion chart would be equivalent to a 6th grade benchmark around W, X, or Y (using the same Fountas and Pinnell scale).

Even by the reform movement’s own standards, according to MetaMetrics’ reference material on Text Complexity Grade Bands and Lexile Bands, the newly CCSS aligned “Stretch” lexile level of 1020 falls in the 6-8 grade range. This begs the question, what is the purpose of standardizing text complexity bands if testing companies do not have to adhere to them? Also, what is the purpose of a standardized test that surpasses agreed-upon lexile levels?

So, right out of the gate, 4th graders are being asked to read and respond to texts that are two grade levels above the recommended benchmark. After they struggle through difficult texts with advanced vocabulary and nuanced sentence structures, they then have to answer multiple choice questions that are, by design, intended to distract students with answers that appear to be correct except for some technicality.

Finally, students must synthesize two or three of these advanced texts and compose an original essay. The ELA portion of the PARCC takes three days, and each day includes a new essay prompt based on multiple texts. These are the prompts from the 2016 Spring PARCC exam for 4th Graders along with my analysis of why these prompts do not reflect the true intention of the Common Core State Standards.

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #1

Refer to the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” and the poem “Mountains.” Then answer question 7.

  1. Think about how the structural elements in the passage from “Emergency on the Mountain” differ from the structural elements in the poem “Mountains.”

Write an essay that explains the differences in the structural elements between the passage and the poem. Be sure to include specific examples from both texts to support your response.

The above prompt probably attempts to assess the Common Core standard RL.4.5: “Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.”

However, the Common Core State Standards for writing do not require students to write essays comparing the text structures of different genres. The Grade 4 CCSS for writing about reading demand that students write about characters, settings, and events in literature, or that they write about how authors support their points in informational texts. Nowhere in the standards are students asked to write comparative essays on the structures of writing. The reading standards ask students to “explain” structural elements, but not in writing. There is a huge developmental leap between explaining something and writing an analytical essay about it. [Celia’s note: The entire enterprise of analyzing text structures in elementary school – a 1940’s and 50’s college English approach called “New Criticism” — is ridiculous for 9 year olds anyway.]

The PARCC does not assess what it attempts to assess

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #2

Refer to the passages from “Great White Shark” and Face the Sharks. Then answer question 20.

 Using details and images in the passages from “Great White Sharks” and Face to Face with Sharks, write an essay that describes the characteristics of white sharks.

It would be a stretch to say that this question assesses CCSS W.4.9.B: “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.”

In fact, this prompt assesses a student’s ability to research a topic across sources and write a research-based essay that synthesizes facts from both articles. Even CCSS W.4.7, “Conduct research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic,” does not demand that students compile information from different sources to create an essay. The closest the standards come to demanding this sort of work is in the reading standards; CCSS RI.4.9 says: “Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.” Fine. One could argue that this PARCC prompt assesses CCSS RI.4.9.

However, the fact that the texts presented for students to “use” for the essay are at a middle school reading level automatically disqualifies this essay prompt from being able to assess what it attempts to assess. (It is like trying to assess children’s math computational skills by embedding them in a word problem with words that the child cannot read.)

ELA 4th Grade Prompt #3

  1. In “Sadako’s Secret,” the narrator reveals Sadako’s thoughts and feelings while telling the story. The narrator also includes dialogue and actions between Sadako and her family. Using these details, write a story about what happens next year when Sadako tries out for the junior high track team. Include not only Sadako’s actions and feelings but also her family’s reaction and feelings in your story.

Nowhere, and I mean nowhere in the Common Core State Standards is there a demand for students to read a narrative and then use the details from that text to write a new story based on a prompt. That is a new pseudo-genre called “Prose Constructed Response” by the PARCC creators, and it is 100% not aligned to the CCSS. Not to mention, why are 4th Graders being asked to write about trying out for the junior high track team? This demand defies their experiences and asks them to imagine a scenario that is well beyond their scope.

Clearly, these questions are poorly designed assessments of 4th graders CCSS learning. (We are setting aside the disagreements we have with those standards in the first place, and simply assessing the PARCC on its utility for measuring what it was intended to measure.)

Rather than debate the CCSS we instead want to expose the tragic reality of the countless public schools organizing their entire instruction around trying to raise students’ PARCC scores.

Without naming any names, I can tell you that schools are disregarding research-proven methods of literacy learning. The “wisdom” coming “down the pipeline” is that children need to be exposed to more complex texts because that is what PARCC demands of them. So children are being denied independent and guided reading time with texts of high interest and potential access and instead are handed texts that are much too hard (frustration level) all year long without ever being given the chance to grow as readers in their Zone of Proximal Development (pardon my reference to those pesky educational researchers like Vygotsky.)

So not only are students who are reading “on grade level” going to be frustrated by these so-called “complex texts,” but newcomers to the U.S. and English Language Learners and any student reading below the proficiency line will never learn the foundational skills they need, will never know the enjoyment of reading and writing from intrinsic motivation, and will, sadly, be denied the opportunity to become a critical reader and writer of media. Critical literacies are foundational for active participation in a democracy.

We can look carefully at one sample to examine the health of the entire system– such as testing a drop of water to assess the ocean. So too, we can use these three PARCC prompts to glimpse how the high stakes accountability system has deformed teaching and warped learning in many public schools across the United States.

In this sample, the system is pathetically failing a generation of children who deserve better, and when they are adults, they may not have the skills needed to engage as citizens and problem-solvers. So it is up to us, those of us who remember a better way and can imagine a way out, to make the case for stopping standardized tests like PARCC from corrupting the educational opportunities of so many of our children.

So Who Bid On The Social Studies And Science State Assessments In Delaware?

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The Delaware DOE is getting ready to pick a vendor for their high-stakes rigorous grit-worthy state assessments for Science and Social Studies.  Some of these were the companies I expected to see and some I never heard of before in my life!  This is the world of corporate education reform.  Every time you think you have a good handle of what companies are out there, a few more rise to the surface.  All bids were due to the Delaware Department of Education by November 30th.  The DOE is giving an estimated date of 12/18 for the recipient of the contract to be announced.

So let’s start with the obvious suspects: American Institutes for Research (AIR) and Pearson.  AIR is the vendor of choice for the DOE on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  They were also the vendor for DCAS.  They also implemented state assessments in Florida and Utah that did not go over well with the public.  Pearson, the father of the PARCC assessment, is taking a huge hit after their bungled test.

Strategic Measurement & Evaluation Inc. comes from Lafayette, IN.  Coincidentally, they have as one of their clients the Indiana Department of Education, along with the Michigan counterpart.  But what is really fascinating is the testimonial section of their website.  There are only two names on there.  One is John King, the upcoming US Secretary of Education.  It turns out he used this company when he ran schools in New York City.  Another woman worked in NYC around the same time.  She was the Vice-President of School Supports for the NYC Charter School Center.  We in Delaware know this woman by her current title, Chief Executive Officer of the Community Education Building in Wilmington, none other than Aretha Miller.  Yes, I noticed their website address is “escoreny” as well.  Turns out they have a revamped website coming soon called “smeasurement.com”.

The other company, MetriTech is something of a mystery.  Not for the obvious reason.  If you go to their website, you better bring a magnifying glass or zoom to 150% or greater.  Not that I’m impressed with any of these companies, but at least have a good website!  Their list of clients includes Chicago Public schools and a couple state DOEs, but in looking at their product, it seems geared towards ELL students.  But they are based out of Champaign, IL.  So maybe they have some political connections or something.

So who will win the big contract?  If I had to guess, I would go with Strategic Measurement and Evaluation.  Pearson and AIR are becoming toxic names associated with the Smarter Balanced Assessment and PARCC.  MetriTech looks like they need financing to get a good website going.  But then again, SME has an old website.  Who knows!  I’m sure whoever it is, kids will hate it, teachers will prep students for it, and parents will want to opt their kids out of it!

 

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Some Big Names Bidding For Priority Schools Contract With The DOE…

“The Contractor will have a track record of influencing teachers, school leaders, parents, school boards, and other constituents, and will have the exceptional interpersonal skills and credibility to drive rapid performance through school turnaround initiatives.  This critical role will report directly to the Chief Accountability and Performance Officer.”

The deadline for the bids on contract DOE 2015-13, Priority School Supports Contractors, expired on June 1st.    Three bids have been entered on this contract, and a couple of them are very big names in the corporate education reform world: Pearson Education and American Institutes for Research.  The third bidder, Innovative Educational Programs, hails from Newark, New Jersey.

Any of these three companies would be very bad for priority schools in my opinion.  Pearson runs the PARCC tests in many states.  American Institutes for Research (AIR) is the assessment vendor for Delaware, and has been ever since DCAS was introduced.  And Innovative Educational Programs is from an area where many turnaround schools have been converted to charter schools.  So much so that hundreds of students recently protested these types of actions a couple weeks ago.

The last thing any Delaware school needs is more contractors coming in, attempting to make our students more “college and career ready” through “rigor” and “grit”.  Especially the most vulnerable students: low-income, minority and special needs.

To read the actual bid proposal, please go here: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_2015-13PrioritySchoolSupp_RFP.pdf

To read the list of bidders, go here: http://bidcondocs.delaware.gov/DOE/DOE_2015-13PrioritySchoolSupp_RFP.pdf

An Inside Look At AIR: The Most Terrifying Company In Education Reform

The scariest company making millions of dollars from the Delaware Department of Education is not who you would think.  It’s not Pearson, or Amplify, or even the Rodel Foundation.  It is a company which has been a part of education policy longer than Common Core was even an idea.  This company sowed the seeds for No Child Left Behind and they even helped to tear down one of Bill Gates original education reform agendas.  This company is American Institutes for Research, otherwise known as AIR.

AIR is the contracted vendor to create and distribute the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the state standardized assessment in Delaware.  But they have been around in Delaware since long before this.  They were also the testing vendor for the Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System (DCAS) in Delaware.  To date AIR received over $35 million dollars from the Delaware DOE as per Delaware Online Checkbook.  How did Delaware bargain students to such a company? Continue reading

The Opposition of Parent Opt Out & Their Warped Realities & Ties To Rodel, Markell & Pearson

Everyone is entitled to speak their mind.  But it is usually more effective if it is your own mind.

On Wednesday, April 22nd, public comment from parents and teachers either in support or against House Bill 50 was given to the Delaware House Education Committee.  One commenter, a special education teacher in the Milford School District named Jesse Parsley was in opposition to the bill.  I was very curious why Mr. Parsley was  speaking against the bill when the vast majority of teachers in traditional school districts support it.  Jesse Parsley is part of the Rodel Dream Team of teachers in Delaware.  So I decided to check out his Twitter account, and this happened:

I did some more research on Parsley, and found this on a blog of one of the contractors with the Delaware DOE: https://blog.learnzillion.com/2014/08/26/the-delaware-dream-team-pd-that-actually-impacts-your-practice/

In fact, many of the folks that spoke against House Bill 50 can be found here:

http://www.vision2015delaware.org/about-vision-2015/leadership/working-groups/

But what about Courtney Fox, not the famous actress, but the Head of School at First State Montessori Charter?  She seemed like she didn’t have any vested interest in state assessments.  Just a charter leader concerned about how parents opting out would impact the school’s test scores.  No ties to Governor Markell, right?  WRONG!

The Council of Chief State School Officers is proud to announce Courtney Fox as the 2008 winner of the State Teacher of the Year for Delaware.

Yeah, you can read and watch this here: http://www.pearsonfoundation.org/ccsso-toy/2008/de/autoplay

I was wondering why the Rodel cabal leader didn’t show up at the House Education Committee.  But he did send some of his minions…

Governor Markell, Deliverology, & A British Knight: The Heart of Delaware Corporate Education Reform

Diane Ravitch wrote an article yesterday about an individual in the corporate education reform movement who is probably one of the biggest faces behind the agendas unleashed on an unwitting public.  What are his strange ties to Delaware’s Governor Jack Markell?  For one thing, they both have the same company on their résumé: McKinsey & Company.  Long before Jack Markell made his mark in Delaware government, he served as a consultant for McKinsey & Associates, based out of Chicago.  Another familiar face worked there as well starting in 2001: Sir Michael Barber.

Barber served as an education policy analyst for British Prime Minister Tony Blair.  He then went on to McKinsey in the same capacity.  Now he is the Chief Education Advisor for Pearson, the corporate giant in the education reform movement.  In 2011, Barber wrote the go-to book for the education reformers, along with McKinsey employees Andy Moffit (husband of Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo) and Paul Kihn (Deputy Superintended School District of Philadelphia).  “Deliverology 101: A Field Guide For Educational Leaders” talks about the ways these reformers can manipulate the public consciousness.

Many of the quotes from Barber in this book are very similar to public comments made by  Governor Markell with regards to education:

Barber: parents and activists who challenge the corporate education reform movement are “defenders of the status quo”

Markell: from a press release on the creation of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, 9/25/14: “We must not accept a status quo in which students in our most disadvantaged communities fall further and further behind each year.”

Markell: from his keynote speech at the Imagine Delaware Education forum, “I, and I know that many of you, refuse to throw up our hands and say that we can’t truly improve education in our schools as long as poverty exists. That’s a recipe for the status quo.”

Barber: “The risks of inaction are greater.”

Markell: also from the Imagine Delaware Education forum, “Inaction is not an option.”

While the parallels in speech bear an uncanny similarity, the thought processes in “Deliverology 101” are downright scary.

Nicholas Tampio, a political science professor at Fordham University, wrote an article here about Barber and the corporate education reform strategies discussed in “Deliverology 101.”

“The authors define “deliverology” as “the emerging science of getting things done” and “a systematic process for driving progress and delivering results in government and the public sector.” The book targets systems leaders, politicians who support education reform and delivery leaders, employees responsible for the day-to-day implementation of structural change.”

This is Delaware education in a nutshell.  With Common Core and standardized testing, these are designed to move Markell’s agendas forward.  He uses certain legislators, business leaders, and an entire Department of Education in Delaware to issue his reforms.  Those who stand against him are put down or humiliated, such as traditional school district teachers, parents, and some legislators.

“This spring, a prominent anti–Common Core activist tweeted, “I don’t think the Ed reformers understand the sheer fury of marginalized parents.” Barber understands this fury but thinks the “laggards” will come around once enough people see the positive results.”

Markell is constantly pumping up schools with great standardized test scores and beats down ones that don’t.  Whenever a “threat” arises to Markell’s goals, we can count on a rousing speech to deliver more of his education reform talk, to get around around the true issues.

“Deliverology alternates between painting a big picture of what needs to be done and offering maxims such as “To aspire means to lead from the front” and “Endless public debate will create problems that could potentially derail your delivery effort.”

And Diane Ravitch writes here:

“In a democracy, we do engage in “endless public debate,” but such debates slow down the reform train. That is why corporate reformers like mayoral control and state takeovers. They like one decider who can tell everyone what to do. Local school boards are not easy to capture, there are too many of them. Like ALEC, the corporate reformers want to bypass local school boards and give the governor–or a commission he appoints–total control.”

Governor Markell has absolute and total control of education in Delaware.  Take the University of Delaware Town Hall Common Core panel in January.  The Delaware DOE was set to attend the debate on Common Core, but Markell told them not to go at the last-minute.  His obsession with controlling the conversation, and if he doesn’t like the talk he is hearing, he will do everything in his power to change it.  This is what is currently happening with the parent opt-out movement in Delaware.  His response to parents speaking up is to take a hard look at other assessments instead of the one test parents hate.

The vast connections between Markell and Barber don’t stop at a book or McKinsey either.  In 2008, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware knew they needed a Governor to back their agenda.  With Markell lagging in the pools, Rodel purposely turned education into a topic.  To that end, they invited Barber to speak at a huge event called Delaware for a Global Economy: Making Vision 2015 Work.  Shortly after Markell’s inauguration, President Obama announced Race To The Top.  Markell quickly used McKinsey & Company’s Education Group led by Barber to develop Delaware’s Race To The Top application.

Barber’s ideas for education reform have spread throughout the world.  This quote from Barber’s Wikipedia page:

“In the summer of 2010, Barber teamed with leaders from the Education Trust and Achieve to found the U.S. Education Delivery Institute. This Institute works with leaders of K-12 and higher education systems around the United States to adapt the delivery concept pioneered by Barber in the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit to drive American education reform efforts.

Based on this essay found in this article from The Guardian in 2012:

They see that mastery of the basics, while essential, is not enough. When I talk about the future of the curriculum, including not just knowledge but also ability to lead by influencing those around you, I find a ready audience among leaders of Pacific Asian systems. People understand too that while exams are important, the obsession with them among parents can be dangerous.

I find this to be very ironic on Barber’s mindset since he is the one behind the drive for corporate education reform at Pearson.  His viewpoint of parents is one he helped to create through his practices at McKinsey and Pearson.  And Governor Markell in Delaware is an all-too-willing partner in these endeavors.

Markell is deeply rooted in the corporate education reform movement, and has been for a long time.  This is his legacy and he will not tolerate any action or voice that attempts to block it.  But I think he underestimates the will and resolve of parents, teachers and organizations united in their attempts to stop him.  As the voices become louder, Markell is backing into a corner and his defensive postures becoming more diluted in the noise.

 

 

 

Red Clay Board Member Adriana Bohm’s Incredible Opt Out Speech At March Board Meeting

As the parent opt out movement continues in Delaware, some of the larger school districts have not taken an official stance on the matter.  At the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education meeting on March 18th, board members Adrianna Bohm gave an excellent speech on the parent opt out movement.  This is a must-read!

I want to personally thank Adriana Bohm for delivering this speech.  I was unable to attend, but I did hear it through Red Clay’s digital recording, and it was stirring and powerful.  I heard Bohm speak at a Wilmington City Council meeting last fall in regards to the priority schools initiative, and she has a very powerful voice.  I expect we will hear much more from Adriana in Delaware’s future.

Both the Capital and Christina Boards of Education have passed resolutions supporting the right for parents to opt their child out of standardized testing with no penalty to the student.  Other districts have verbally stated they would support opt out, such as Colonial, but no official board decision was made.

In the meantime, if you live in Red Clay Consolidated School District, please attend their April 15th board meeting and give public comment supporting parent opt out.  And don’t forget about the Parent Press Conference, covering parent opt out and education in Delaware from the parent’s perspective.  This event will be outside of Legislative Hall in Dover on April 1st at 5pm.  For more details, please go here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/962893793730222/

It Came From The FOIA File! DOE’s TPA Report & How Does Pearson Fit In?

No, this isn’t Office Space.  That was a TPS report.  But it sure does feel like the Delaware Department of Education runs just about the same!  Did you ever wonder how the DOE gets all their wonderful knowledge about teachers?  They get it from other corporate education reform companies like Pearson!  This file is from the infamous FOIA that another individual received early last month.  This may shed some light on some things for teachers in Delaware and why the DOE always seems like they are out to get them.  Remember, Pearson had a hand in this!  Chris Ruszkowski, the director of the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit at the DOE, must salivate when he gets reports like this.

New Jersey Blogger Mel Katz Gives All The Reasons For Opt-Out To Superintendent!!!

My Response To SB Superintendent
At the last South Brunswick Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Dr. Jelling came to the podium for about 10 minutes to give a short speech on PARCC, testing, and opting-out. I recorded his short speech, which can be seen below (the link should bring you right to the video). After coming home from the meeting unsatisfied (to say the least) with a lot of what he said, I decided to go through and break down his main points.
Video of speech:
Breakdown of points:
“Something that we are going to administer to so many students across so many states.”

Continue reading

Special Education In America: Where is it going? Spread this link all over! Reblog!

I firmly believe our federal government wants to eventually usurp IDEA and IEPs for special needs children. They want the “common” goal to be increased standardized test scores for these students. This is a very strong opinion, but here’s why I believe this.

The volley started on June 24th. This was the day OSEP announced Delaware, California, Texas and Washington D.C. needed federal intervention for special education. Their criteria for these states was based on compliance, NAEP testing, and students with disabilities drop-out rates. But let’s not fool ourselves for one minute this had anything to do with compliance. It’s all about Common Core and test scores. Common Core is the complete opposite of an IEP. The I in IEP stands for “INDIVIDUALIZED”, not a sameness for all special needs students.

The feds have already said if these states don’t get it together, they could be at risk of losing federal funding for special education. And what happens then? With no funding, they wouldn’t have to grant special ed. Which is the overall plan. They announced a $50 million dollar data center to help special needs children increase their test scores on the same day. But if all states eventually lost their $11.5 billion dollars in special education funding, what would that mean? The IEP will be gone!

I think they know special needs students will tank and fail the upcoming tests coming out next year: Pearson and Smarter Balanced. As a result, they will have their reason for getting rid of many special education teachers as well as regular teachers. They will use this as justification for getting rid of IDEA and IEPs as they are currently written. It will still exist, but new legislation will be introduced to make everything about increasing test scores for our disabled children. And guess which states will be the pilots for this federal intrusion into the heart of education for special needs students? Delaware, California, Texas and Washington D.C.

This has been planned for a long time. It will change everything. As a result, inclusion will become a thing of the past. Without the current accommodations in place for these children, chaos will reign in classrooms for a very brief period of time. Teachers and administrators will throw their hands up, and then what happens to these children? I fear the worst, and I’m frightened to even write down that thought, so I won’t.

The only way to stop this is for parents to get together NOW. Not later. Not into the school year. It will be too late then. The media will be focused on the upcoming elections, and which side will reign supreme. Then we get into the presidential race, and so on. This is our key moment parents, and if we waste this chance, it will be gone. I am only one person, and I can’t change all of this by myself. I need your help. Our children need our help. Some of us may not like what our children have now, but it won’t matter when it is all gone.